The town of Crested Butte, Colo. knows all about snowstorms. After all, the ski town located deep in the Rocky Mountains records an average of 217 inches of the white stuff every year and has based its entire economy on skiing, snowboard and winter recreation.
But even in such a snow-friendly place, the massive series of storms that hit the area in January 2017 was too much.
Over the course of 10 days at the start of the year, more than 90 inches of fresh snow fell on Crested Butte and the surrounding mountain communities. It was “Snowmaggedon.” It was a “Snowpocalypse.” It was on top of a healthy base that Crested Butte Mountain Resort was bragging about just two weeks prior ahead of the annual holiday rush.
By the end of it all, even the ski resort had to close for a few days due to the excessive snow.
And Crested Butte wasn’t alone. The 6+ feet that dumped on the mountain town was the high water mark of a series of winter storms that ravaged the Colorado high country for nearly two weeks, burying areas from Steamboat Springs in the north to Durango in the southwest. Multiple avalanches forced the Colorado Department of Transportation to close US 550 north of Durango near Purgatory Ski Resort.
A Cold Trend for Winter Storms
The storms made for dramatic headlines and photos, but they were just the 2017 kickoff of a winter storm trend that made 2016 one of the snowiest on record nationwide.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, winter storms caused a full $1 billion in insured losses in 2016, up sharply from the $38 million that the storms caused from coast to coast in 2012, but down from the $3.5 billion in insured losses that winter storms and “cold waves” together caused in 2015. That year was almost double the 10-year average of $1.8 billion.
According to Property Claim Services, winter storms caused about $30 billion in insured losses from 1996 to 2015, for an annual average of about $1.5 billion, making winters storms the second-largest cause of catastrophe losses in the U.S. (after tornadoes).
The figures continued a trend in rising winter storm damage and insured losses that dates back to 2010, accounting for all winter damage, blizzards and cold waves. In terms of overall damage, 1993 still holds the all-time record for winter losses with nearly $4 billion in 2015 dollars.
What It All Means
The good news about all of this is, although storm activity is high and losses are on the rise, most insurance policies have damage from winter weather well covered.
Homeowners: Most standard homeowners policies will provide blanket coverage for the home for any damage caused by wind, snow, severe cold and freezing rain. Melting snow that seeps into a home is covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, and a few private insurers. Additional living expenses would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while a home is being repaired.
Business: The insurance polices that cover businesses are designed to cover both damage to a businesses’ property, or any structures that it owns or leases, as well as the inventory that the business stores in those locations. That way, in the event of a winter storm related loss, the business owner is able to recover everything they need to rebuild without going under. These types of policies also typically include business interruption coverage that provides for revenue lost due to closure, fixed expenses, such as rent and utility costs as well as expenses of operating from a temporary location.